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Wrapping herself in Americana and mythology, Lana Del Rey has consistently pushed her take on the American songwriting tradition. It's a dark and introspective ride, glimmering with references to all things from the United States, from Rhode Island to A&W root beer to John Denver to celebrity preacher Judah Smith, who is featured in his own unsettling interlude on her latest album Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd. Musically the album is quiet and arresting, not employing much more than piano, strings or a synth, which makes for an extremely personal feel. It's not a tired take however, despite the quiet tone. The production, with a large helping of producer talent and artist collaborations from the likes of Bleachers, SYML, Father John Misty and Tommy Genesis has created something quite expansive and introspective.

It’s a look at family, life, and death as much as it is a bold showing from an artist looking at their work with fresh eyes, this introspection most evident on textured track Taco Truck x VB which recycles past track Venice Bitch off prior album Norman Fucking Rockwell. With Did you know…, Del Rey lulls the listener into the position of voyeur, beckoning us into her sadness saturated world. Her touch and sense of style is all over the album, in turn retro and modern, she's the recognisable femme fatale on A&W and Candy Necklace, and the equally familiar bitter and devastating sentimental Del Rey on Sweet and the eponymous track, Did you know there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd.

As an artist, Del Rey has struggled to be understood, drawing ire in 2020 for complaining that she has been unfairly condemned, or “crucified,” as she characterised it, in a post for Instagram at the time, for “singing about being embodied, feeling beautiful by being in love even if the relationship is not perfect, or dancing for money.” Hoping for a wider embrace and understanding of her artistry, Del Rey won acclaim for her record Norman Fucking Rockwell in 2019.

Her latest is certainly worthy of the same acclaim, few artists are able to enable the emotion and honesty that Del Rey does, while making it feel raw rather than canned. Her lyricism placing her at the forefront of pop music, it's a surrendering of control as much as it is a tightrope act, drawing back the curtain just enough for listeners. Let the Light in urges for greater acceptance and forgiveness, as the trap flavoured Fishtail is a wondrous and mumbled plea for honesty. From start to finish, Del Rey has accomplished yet another singular and impressive work, firmly placing her in the canon of American songwriters.

Ava Ahmann

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